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Delaware Theatre Company’s production of Becky Mode’s Fully Committed zips by like an elusive restaurant server hoping you’ll vacate the table. Fine-dining aficionados — you know who you are —know that scene. Do you think you’re special? You’ll find out for sure when you call the person manning the newest, hottest restaurant’s reservation hotline.
Dozens of people, one actor
In Mode’s comedy, Sam Peliczowski (charming, disarming, agile, amazing Kraig Swartz) plays a probably-too-nice New York actor from the Midwest who’s having a dry spell in his stage work. So he does what performers often do — returns to a job that gives him structure, income, and very little satisfaction.
Here, that job is minding the reservations phone line at a never-named trendy Manhattan restaurant. It’s at the cutting edge of cuisine, teetering on the brink of excess and ridiculousness, just like the panoply of patrons who call for reservations — one after another, over and over.
Swartz plays them all. It takes a few minutes to adjust to his head-swiveling character switchbacks, but soon the convention becomes the norm and you realize just how adroitly this actor transforms. “Quick-change” usually describes a wardrobe switch, but here it requires entirely new personae — dozens of them.
The Philadelphia actor masters a dazzling array of vocal and physical pyrotechnics, delivering them with flair, good humor, and gusto. He changes accents every few seconds, so that even the savviest theatergoer (or reviewer) is left wondering how Swartz — like his character Sam — can possibly keep everything on track.
More than one star
The plot is slight — there’s really only a single premise — and at the beginning, it’s frenetically repetitive. But as the show moves forward the playwright builds an arc into the narrative, allowing the hyperactivity to drop occasionally into quieter territory so the actor — and his audience — can breathe and process what’s happening.
This allows Swartz to open a window on the difficulties of theatrical life (something he probably knows all too well) and portray the sweetness at the core of this character. You can’t help but cheer him on.
Dirk Durossette’s scenic design cleverly contrasts Manhattan’s elegant skyline with the grubby basement workspace that’s de rigueur for just about every restaurant. Lily Fossner’s lights bump up and down to help illuminate character and locale changes.
There might be just one actor in this show, but there’s also an invisible star. Toby Pettit’s telephonic sound design creates a cacophony of cues — hundreds of them, it seems — that require split-second timing. Stage manager Alison Hassman coordinates all the rings, phone buttons, cell phones, and prerecorded offstage voices. She plays the soundboard like a musical instrument and syncs it to the actor’s movements with absolute precision.
Though this show was written and first performed a decade ago, the restaurant scene is still just as imperious. Seeking a week-in-advance 4:30pm reservation at a nice-but-not-trendy Manhattan restaurant, this reviewer was recently told they couldn’t guarantee a table: “Parties of four may sit at the communal table.” Yet the restaurant was virtually empty when we arrived.
But there are no reservations when you dine at DTC with Swartz and MacMillan.
What, When, Where
Fully Committed. By Becky Mode, Kathryn MacMillan directed. Through November 4, 2018, at the Delaware Theatre Company, 200 Water Street, Wilmington, Delaware. (302) 594-1100 or delawaretheatre.org.
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